Buckingham Palace has once again rejected a request from Ethiopian officials to send back the body of Prince Alemayehu, who passed away at the age of 18 in the United Kingdom.
Born in Magdala in 1861, Alemayehu was only seven years old when the British arrived in Ethiopia in 1868 and laid seige to Tewodro’s mountain fortress which led to a fierce battle that ended with the death of the emperor, Tewodros II.
The British stole many valuable artefacts and heirlooms, along with the Empress Tiruwork Wube and her son, Prince Alemayehu. By the time the young prince arrived in the UK, he was an orphan after his mother died during the journey.
After his arrival, Queen Victoria took sympathy upon the boy, taking up financial responsibility for his expenses.
Alemaheyu was first sent to a public school, and then to a military college in Sandhurst where he was bullisd. A private tutor was hired to teach him at his home in Leeds, where he became ill and began refusing treatement, fearing he was poisoned.
The prince also reportedly longed to go back home, as correspondence had shown, but this idea was constantly shut down.
Alemayehu passed away at his home at the age of 18.
Queen Victoria had written about her sadness in her diary:
“Very grieved and shocked to hear by telegram, that good Alemayehu had passed away this morning. It is too sad! All alone, in a strange country, without a single person or relative, belonging to him,” she wrote.
“His was no happy life, full of difficulties of every kind, and was so sensitive, thinking that people stared at him on account of his colour… Everyone is very sorry.”
Demands for the return of the remains of Prince Alemaheyu date back to 2007, when the country’s then-president Girma Wolde-Gior sent a formal request to Queen Elizabeth II, but nothing came of it.
Recently, a spokesperson from the Buckingham Palace sent a statement to the BBC explaining their refusal to send the remains back to his home, stating that shifting his remains would disturb the other bodies buried at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle.
“It is very unlikely that it would be possible to exhume the remains without disturbing the resting place of a substantial number of others in the vicinity,” the palace responded.
They further mentioned in the statement that the Royal Palace has awlays accomodated those from Ethiopia who wished to visit the prince’s resting place, and were aware of the need to honor Prince Alemaheyu’s memory.
Speaking to the BBC, Faisal Minas, a descendant of the Royal Family in Ethiopia, said:
“We want his remains back as a family and as Ethiopians because that is not the country he was born in. It was not right for him to be buried in the UK.”
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